In a solute-transport model, if a constant-concentration boundary condition is applied at a node in an active flow field, a solute flux can occur by both advective and dispersive processes. The potential for advective release is demonstrated by reexamining the Hydrologic Code Intercomparison (HYDROCOIN) project case 5 problem, which represents a salt dome overlain by a shallow groundwater system. The resulting flow field includes significant salinity and fluid density variations. Several independent teams simulated this problem using finite difference or finite element numerical models. We applied a method-of-characteristics model (MOCDENSE). The previous numerical implementations by HYDROCOIN teams of a constant-concentration boundary to represent salt release by lateral dispersion only (as stipulated in the original problem definition) was flawed because this boundary condition allows the release of salt into the flow field by both dispersion and advection. When the constant-concentration boundary is modified to allow salt release by dispersion only, significantly less salt is released into the flow field. The calculated brine distribution for case 5 depends very little on which numerical model is used, as long as the selected model is solving the proper equations. Instead, the accuracy of the solution depends strongly on the proper conceptualization of the problem, including the detailed design of the constant-concentration boundary condition. The importance and sensitivity to the manner of specification of this boundary does not appear to have been recognized previously in the analysis of this problem.
Additional publication details
Constant-concentration boundary condition: Lessons from the HYDROCOIN variable-density groundwater benchmark problem